If you have been at your job for a while, let’s say about 10 years, you should be an expert. The question is, what have you become an expert at?
My training changed over the years
I worked in my field for over 24 years. As a Child and Youth Care Worker, the first part of my career was doing frontline work with youth and families. It wasn’t long before I moved into introductory supervisory positions and then, following that, into managing programs and staff over a large geographical area. I certainly learned a lot over my career.
Initially, I learned a lot about discipline
As a Family Support Worker, I was teaching parenting skills, so I needed to help those parents manage their kids. I studied material on I messages, reflective listening and natural and logical consequences. I added to my repertoire skills in teaching adults so that I could accelerate the learning for the distressed parents I was supporting.
Next, I studied management skills
It wasn’t long however, before I was experimenting with Excel, trying to grasp time sheets and acquiring skills to run staff meetings. I pursued the finer art of not only how to find things in policy manuals but how to write a new policy when needed. Later in my career, I discovered the craft of writing proposals.
I was doing a lot of practice of getting along with others
A theme through all of this was that I was learning about relationships. In my 9-5 work, but also as a wife, mother and community member, I was learning to manage relationships. Many times I certainly was not very good at handling interactions though. It was a process of self-discovery, skill attainment and patience. A number of my eventual insights about effective relationships came through trial and error.
I was becoming an expert in leading.
All of my experience, training and practice was about leading myself, leading others, leading programs and leading in a community. It is now what I know and do well, in fact, very well. I have become what you might call, masterful at leading. Not only do I do it daily in all aspects of my life, I coach others to excel at leadership. I love it and continue to work hard at excelling at it.
Being an expert should matter a lot to you too
See, here is the thing; my guess is that you want to make a difference. I suspect that you’re tired of getting home at the end of the day and feeling exhausted and drained. I hear the frustration from people about looking back over their day and being sadly aware that they achieved nothing of significance. It was another day of putting out fires and dealing with office politics.
Meaning and significance comes from doing something worth doing
If you want to feel like you are doing something worthwhile each day, it’s important to get clear on what you need to do to achieve that. It’s essential then to become very skilled at it. You will want to be adept, savvy and brilliant, at what matters most, so that you can make the difference you want to. When you do, you still may come home at the end of the day tired, but it will be with a bit of a smile on your face, knowing that your energy exertion was for a good cause!
What is an expert?
Studies have been done that show was that it takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. It takes 10,000 hours to invest into learning to be an amazing concert pianist, a star athlete or a stellar computer programmer. 10,000 hours equates to about two hours and 45 minutes a day for 10 years. That’s a lot of practice.
You are already practicing every day
You put it in at least 2 to 3 hours a day of time into your craft. Yes, your job as a craft. Yes, you are becoming a master at what you do. If you keep going along this path, you’ll be really good at something, you just may not have chosen what you’re going to be really good at. As I said earlier, if you aren’t careful, you will be a master at dancing in office drama.
Be intentional about what you are becoming a master at
You must get really clear on what is you want to achieve over time. Is it to become an exceptional social worker? Is it to be the expert in a certain disability? Do you want to be a master at managing others or leading others? Do you want the expert at program growth and development? Where do you want to excel? Where do you want to be seen as a leader in your field?
Three steps to becoming an expert
1) Decide what you want to be an expert in.
Take some time to look at the aspects of your job that you really enjoy. Look back to peak moments that you have had in your career. Also, look at what gives you the most fulfillment and enjoy. Imagine it’s 10 years from now, what do you want to be spending most of your time doing? By getting clear on what it is that you want to be focusing on you will find more opportunities to do that.
2) Consider what it will take to become that kind of an expert
When you look at what is it that you want to become an expert in, then take some time to consider what formal and informal training you will need to do that. Is there of course you can take, a book you can read or are there videos on the Internet that you could watch that might help you? Also, consider what practice you will need to do. Just like learning to play a sport and running drills, the skills that you’re mastering as a professional we’ll also require practice. Consider where you will need to get that practice. For example, you might want to join Toastmasters so that you can practice your public speaking skills.
3) Take the first steps to following the plan
Once you’ve determined what you want to master and what you will need to do to master that, then determine the steps that you will need to follow. It might be read a book, take a course or join a community group. Perhaps the next step might be asking your organization to fund training. The first step might also be reorganizing your day to find time to do it. Figure out the next step and don't delay in taking it!
Become the master, expert or respected leader in your field
We are all practicing every day to become something. We are all working hard to learn hone, to excel at certain skills. If we are not careful what we are honing is overwhelmed, boredom and getting caught up in office politics. Are you going to spend the next 10 years becoming more masterful have not enjoying life? Or will you spend the next 10 years following your passion, your heart and learning to do more of what you love and a really good at? If you choose the second option, I dare you to take one giant leap today towards becoming an expert at that.
What are you becoming an expert at and what do you need to do to get there?
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.